Synchronicity: Before Completion

In less than two weeks I have my final therapy session with L. I have been caught up in a back-and-forth whirlwind of feelings, switching between courage and fear, happiness and grief, adventure and clinging. I cannot exactly say why it is that I know I am done. I just know it in my body somewhere that I am. Yet, I am still sometimes afraid to step into and follow through with the choices I make.

My therapist introduced me to the I Ching some time ago, and I have written about it here before. I do like asking it questions when my mind is scattered in some way, because it helps me to feel a sense of understanding of the greater forces or themes that I can connect with. It helps me to feel calmer, to be in touch with these concepts outside of myself. I relax.

I asked it: “How can I approach the post-therapy phase?”.

It answered with hexagram 64: Before Completion. This hexagram is at the very end of the I Ching, and reads:

above LI THE CLINGING, FLAME
below K’AN THE ABYSMAL, WATER

This hexagram indicates a time when the transition from disorder to order is not yet completed. The change is indeed prepared for, since all the lines in the upper trigram are in relation to those in the lower. However, they are not yet in their places. While the preceding hexagram offers an analogy to autumn, which forms the transition from summer to winter, this hexagram presents a parallel to spring, which leads out of winter’s stagnation into the fruitful time of summer. With this hopeful outlook the Book of Changes come to its close.

I won’t copy the rest of it here, but you can easily look it up. I find it so strange that in asking about the end of therapy, the I Ching answers with the hexagram related to new beginnings. It is true that therapy is ending: but L and I have also talked about new beginnings, paradigm shifts, new ways of approaching both the world, and our journey together, our relationship. We have talked about and have a shared love and drive towards social change, a shift in our ways of thinking and connecting with other people. I have written about this before, the closing of the old, the opening of the new. But I didn’t expect to get this result, now. It feels too perfect.

I also should not forget about the changing lines. The hexagram changes to 16: Enthusiasm.

above CHêN THE AROUSING, THUNDER
below K’UN THE RECEPTIVE, EARTH

The strong line in the fourth place, that of the leading official, meets with response and obedience from all the other lines, which are all weak. The attribute of the upper trigram, Chên, is movement; the attributes of K’un, the lower, are obedience and devotion. This begins a movement that meets with devotion and therefore inspires enthusiasm, carrying all with it. Of great importance, furthermore, is the law of movement along the line of least resistance, which in this hexagram is enunciated as the law for natural events and for human life.

All of it seems utterly clear to me: move in sympathy with the spirit of the people, and don’t fight against the natural law of things. Embrace it. Allow things to develop naturally as they do and will, adjust in co-creation, and do so in togetherness and harmony, not resistance to what is and what will be.

My journey with L is not just therapy. Rather, it touches me personally, spiritually, politically, and in some deep way beyond any given action or word in any single moment. A greater shift emerges – I feel it, I let it take me. My journey with L also appears complete, but in many ways it is not. We are facing an ending, and also a beginning. We find ourselves in the midst of a shift (for us as individuals, but also far beyond) that we can only approach with natural, flowing movement in joy and in enthusiasm, with love and unity.

The Problem of Achieving a Quiet Heart

So, it’s been a long time since I last wrote. Interestingly, my last post was around the time that I started therapy with a wonderful woman called “L”. This blog started as a way to express my thoughts, to chronicle my attempts to choose courage instead of fear, to reinvent my life and pull myself out of the mental swamp that I was tired of living in. A lot has changed. So much has changed that I feel almost like a new person, renewed and fresh.

Therapy is such a weird process, one of the most challenging and beautiful and painful processes I have ever gone through. I say “gone through” as if it’s in the past, when I’m still in it. As much as it pains me though, I know I am nearing the end of at least one phase of it. I feel a deep ache at the love L has given me, over and over and over, the patience and the kindness, and the thought of our time together changing and closing. I know some of my intense feelings are just part of how therapy works. Yet, some of it is so much more than that: a genuine, deep, and meaningful connection, a striving for balance; tranquility and growth at the same time. At certain points the sessions were excruciatingly difficult, while these days it slowly settles. We still have moments where everything feels incredibly consuming, but mostly I feel a sense of peace and a knowledge that I have to take steps into my own independence.

My first post on this blog was about beginnings. My friend J’s correspondence art project and mission statement were what I started this blog with, and the concepts in her words still resonate with me:

Conservation of Energy (knowing– exactly –when to “end”/knowing what is a “beginning”)

I wasn’t thinking too hard about endings years ago, I was all about reinventing myself, making conscious choices to move forwards. But beginnings and endings are all part of one and the same cycle.

My therapist L introduced me to the I Ching, also known as the Book of Changes. The truths that fill this book are a special kind of wisdom about life’s rhythms, and the natural laws that govern our beautifully changing world of flux. It makes me happy more and more that the tattoo on my left arm is a tree with all four seasons. When I got it, it represented change: my changing moods, the cycles of my life, and the ways in which I tried to come to terms with the shifting multitudes in me, many of which I struggled with immensely. It was an attempt to see the beauty in something that tore me apart, a mixture of positive and negative. The tattoo on my right arm is one of flowers: growth, memory, and a re-writing of my past into something beautiful. Beginnings and endings are woven through the I Ching in a tapestry of life and death, acceptance and struggle, polarities in good and evil, the shedding of the old, approaching the new. In the first Hexagram it states:

Here it is shown that the way to success lies in apprehending and giving actuality to the way of the universe [Tao], which, as a law running through end and beginning, brings about all phenomena in time.

I realised recently that I’m afraid of the next ending. Ending therapy, finding my autonomy. I read back through some of my old posts on this blog, many despairing, confused meanderings through the darknesses of my mind. Those dark moments didn’t stop when I started therapy, though they come less frequently now. They are less deep, less severe, easier for me to pull myself out of. The light and the gold and the brightness that has come into my life is of a magnitude that is indescribable.

When I’m grateful to L, she often says that I’m the one doing the hard work. But I cannot imagine the responsibility of having other people’s minds in your hands, their happinesses, their traumas, their dreams, their fears and abuses and angers and loves and failures. I am doing the work in my own journey, but she has been right there alongside me showing me the path. With her help I have transformed in ways I never thought possible. L’s Dad passed away early this year, and I went through my own mini-grieving in response. Not because she seemed sad, or because I knew him, but it just made me so sad, that he had died. That she had lost someone. I keep thinking “I suppose none of us are getting out of this alive,” and for some reason it has given me a strange comfort and drive to be more brave, more open, more loving. I wrote a post some years ago talking about the “small but strong” version of myself that was scared of my depression, scared of my moods, scared of the darkness in me. I know now that my heart is stronger than I ever thought possible, more courageous than I dreamed. I can look at my moods, the darkness flitting around the edges and smile at it. It doesn’t beat me to a pulp anymore. The fear never leaves me, but most days now I can turn towards it with curiosity and an open heart.

Endings feel like they are a part of everything around me. I am planning to move away from Berlin to travel some more while the kids are still young and not in school, and I get sadder and sadder at the prospect of leaving. I told L that I was thinking of whether or not I wanted to have a personal relationship with her instead of a therapy relationship, and for the first time in a long time I am struggling to untangle the courageous choice from the fearful one. Am I afraid of the relationship ending, afraid of not having her in my life? Perhaps the courageous choice is to just let her go and focus on my own autonomy. Or am I afraid of attempting something new and different, following what I know my heart wants? Perhaps the courageous choice is to take a risk and try it. This odd bubble sits in my chest as well, reminding me that I am not the only person involved in this decision. Can I even fairly put her in a position where I would ask her to answer me? Am I being foolish even considering the idea? It’s an ethical minefield, no doubt. Maybe my courage and hope aren’t balanced enough with consideration, seriousness, and contemplation. Maybe the answers are clear, and I just don’t want to accept them.

All I know is that I don’t want to live a life of regret, but it’s hard to know what you should take a chance on, and what you shouldn’t. The main things I regret are the times I have harmed others, and I know that potential for harm lies in attempting to change our relationship into something else. Staying in the safety of the therapy relationship is significantly less risky. Whenever I think about risk though, I smile when I think about how she often says “No risk, no fun”. So far, she has been totally right for everything I have encountered – I question now where the limit is. There are certain kinds of risk-taking that are akin to leaping off a cliff! At least for now I decided to do nothing and accept that everything comes in its right time. Maybe there never will be a right time, because it’s just not the right thing to do. I don’t know. What I do know is that when something is right, you feel it and experience it without so much internal conflict: it just happens. Something interesting about the I Ching is that “After Completion” comes before “Before Completion” (the two final Hexagrams).

While the preceding hexagram offers an analogy to autumn, which forms the transition from summer to winter, this hexagram presents a parallel to spring, which leads out of winter’s stagnation into the fruitful time of summer. With this hopeful outlook the Book of Changes come to its close.

A natural cycle governs everything in life. I could never have dreamed years ago that I would be able to consider anything with even some sense of the confidence and harmony I feel many days now. Pulled from side-to-side by my own mind, I felt only chaotic, wild, and out of control. One part of me hopes that actually it will never be fully tamed, because I grow to enjoy having a little bit of wildness in me. Anyway, I know that this path is not a linear one. As L says, we all do the best we can in the time and space that we do it in.

The Words We Cannot Speak

“[T]o love is to enter into the inevitability of one day not being able to protect what is most valuable to you.”

– Exit West, Mohsin Hamid

So much of life is about loss, and how we deal with it, process it, keep moving afterwards. I told my friend M. that I love her, and that this feeling scares me because love is like my lungs have been scooped out and replaced with pop-rocks. She told me she sometimes feels as if she loves in a surface way, shallow and never quite getting so deep. When she loses someone, when someone dies, she cries and then keeps on with life.

I feel right now as if someone tied me up with red threads, as if the world is so much tinier than I imagined and all these connections are pulling me in different ways. What do I do with all the loves I have? How do I explain to people: I adore you, I miss you, I love you so much that the base of my spine turns to butterflies when I think of you. I can’t help but feel so alone sometimes with these feelings, like nobody else feels so strong and keeps it all so pushed inside. I store it in my bones, in my blood, and yet when the time comes to actually say the words I can’t, and instead all that comes out is tepid.

The flipside of that coin is that I’m fickle, easily extinguished if I don’t get enough to keep the flame alive. I cannot say that either: if you don’t love me enough, if you don’t show me enough, the fear fills me again and I will leave. I can’t say what I need to say, and the sadness of losing someone makes me feel so scared that I just push it away and move backwards, move away, put something in between us so that the loss will not be so much. But all the feelings are still there, everything still simmers underneath, I just need the right thing to wake it up.

When it comes to my flight or fight response, am I just flight?

I met a girl on Thursday who had a tattoo of a cormorant on her back. She told me that the cormorant stretches its wings out after diving, to dry them. It’s one of the only aquatic birds in the world that does not have fully water-repellent wings.

Beginning to Read “The Passion According to G.H.”

Yesterday I went out with a woman I met on Tinder several months ago. She’s so smart, and we have this weird connection that I don’t really understand. I like her a lot, but she seems to be plagued by this desperation about other people; she cannot bear to connect with people who are hurtful, who do not sense the world in the way she does. She told me that she used to explain away people’s flaws and their mistakes with the mosaic of issues they had experienced in their lives, but now she doesn’t seem able to do this anymore, and that loss seems to totally consume her.

I know it’s not my job to do so, but I really don’t know if I can repair this.

Another friend is struggling inside her mind too; she feels so lonely, so isolated in this knowledge that we are all ultimately alone and that everyone dies and ceases to be. This thought of losing herself, of no longer existing, seems to cover her like a thick blanket. Every time we drink a little too much, she talks about it, she seems a little scared. I adore her; when she talks like this I just want to hold her and tell her that everything will be okay.

They both live with these questions inside themselves, and I’m painfully aware that I don’t have the answers.

I began reading The Passion According to G.H. yesterday as well, and it feels like sometimes things in my life are flowing in tandem. As if the air just knows exactly what needs to happen for my brain to organise the fluttering thoughts of other people, to help me understand these parts of them.

Some quotes:

“How could I explain that my greatest fear is precisely of: being? and yet there is no other way. How can I explain that my greatest fear is living whatever comes?”

“Will I need the courage to use an unprotected heart and keep talking to the nothing and the no one? as a child thinks about the nothing. And run the risk of being crushed by chance.”

“For now I am inventing your presence, just as one day I won’t know how to risk dying alone, dying is the greatest risk of all, I won’t know how to enter death and take the first step into the first absence of me—just as in this last and so primary hour I shall invent your unknown presence and with you shall begin to die until I learn all by myself not to exist, and then I shall let you go.”